Presentation on theme: "Norman conquerors, castles and cloisters. So where does Cirencester fit in? By 1068 the west country was under the control of the Norman army, who quickly."— Presentation transcript:
Norman conquerors, castles and cloisters
So where does Cirencester fit in? By 1068 the west country was under the control of the Norman army, who quickly built castles in many towns, including Cirencester. There is very little written evidence for this castle although it was recorded that in 1142 its ‘rampart and outworks’ were ‘razed to the ground’. No trace of it remains today except for the name Castle Street. Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror. He founded the Abbey of St Mary on the site of a small Saxon church, where the Abbey Grounds are today. Some of the abbey walls can be seen in Gosditch St; the Spitalgate or Norman Arch also remains.
Church control and Charter markets
So where does Cirencester fit in? Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror. He founded the Abbey of St Mary on the site of a small Saxon church, where the Abbey Grounds are today. The Hospital of St John The Evangelist was founded, to care for the destitute and sick. Its arches can be seen in Spitalgate Lane. Henry I provided for a Parish Church for the townspeople, alongside the Abbey. The two religious buildings grew up side by side and were granted further income and land by his son Henry II. The Parish Church was enlarged over the centuries into the building we see today. With such royal support the Abbey also prospered...
The Abbey had an abbot at the head of the monastery. As well as being the religious leader he was allowed to be the Lord of the Manor. Abbots therefore had the right to collect taxes and free services from the townspeople. Their stewards could collect payments from market traders and have first pick of the market goods; all the profits from Market Place fairs went to them. They made money from wool trading and built mills on the River Churn that the locals had to pay to use, at one point confiscating and destroying private ones! Business got so good that one abbot had the South Porch built on to the Parish Church with its large room for rent collecting and business affairs. Well, someone had to lead the way to the Glory of God!
In 1306 the abbot at the time closed the town court and imposed his own rule of law. The Hospital in Spitalgate was taken over also. The townspeople often tried to complain about their unfair treatment to the Royal Courts but successive abbots always managed to bribe or persuade their way back into control. The Abbey was always very unpopular with the locals! The abbots had control over of the town and its business for 400 years until the Abbey was closed down and demolished at the order of Henry VIII. Some of the abbey walls can be seen in Gosditch St; the Spitalgate or Norman Arch also remains. People think the Parish Church is my Abbey... now only marks in the grass in the Abbey Grounds show where it stood.
Elizabethan estates – wealth for some
So where does Cirencester fit in? The familiar landmarks of the Abbey Grounds and Cirencester Park sandwich the centre of Cirencester to this day. Both estates were originally sold or given to Tudor nobles by Henry VIII and Edward VII after the closing down of the Abbey. It was during Henry VIII’s daughter’s reign, Elizabeth I, that great houses were built and the influence of their owners on the town increased. Both estates had become the property of the Queen. Elizabeth I gave Oakley Manor (now Cirencester Park) to her Treasurer, Sir Thomas Parry who later sold it to Sir John Danvers. She sold the Abbey site to her doctor, Richard Master, and gave him a silver cup that had belonged to her mother, Anne Boleyn, one of Henry’s six wives. This can be seen in a special safe in the Parish Church.
There are tombs and brasses in the Parish Church that show how wealthy some of the Cirencester families became at this time, like that of Humfry Bridges and his respectful, and large, family. A Cirencester man who became very wealthy from wool dealing was John Coxwell, who bought some of the former abbey land from Elizabeth I. He probably lived in Abbot St, now renamed Coxwell St. He lived to be over 100, only dying then after falling off his horse! He left in his will houses in Dollar St, Abbot St, Thomas St and properties in Gloucester and local villages.
Stuart street life and Civil War
So where does Cirencester fit in? The town had its share of action in these troubled times. This is an artist’s impression of the time the townspeople attacked the coach of Lord Chandos, who in 1642 arrived to raise support for Charles I. Chandos escaped, rescued by the local gentry, but it was now very clear which side the town was on - Cirencester supported Parliament. So when Charles I made his headquarters at Oxford he sent Prince Rupert and his Royalist army to capture it in There are enough contemporary accounts of the fighting for us to have a fairly clear picture of what took place that cold February day. The clever epitaph on the wall in the Parish Church, to Hodgkinson Paine who died defending his colours, is a window back through time.
The centre of town in the 17 th century was a very different scene from the gentle shopping and tourist haven we see today, with or without opposing forces attacking each other! Today’s Market Place was divided into lanes and slums and different market areas. The eastern end was the Chepyng St pig Market (now the start of Dyer St ) separated from the other market in front of the South Porch by The Shambles. At the other end were Shoe Lane, Butter Row and Butcher or Botcher Row with their tumbling shops and tenements. The noise, dirt and lack of control meant the town had to appoint a Beadle of Beggars in 1618 – he had an interesting list of duties! The streets were packed with inns and taverns, mostly now disappeared. It is claimed that the disguised Charles II hid overnight in the Sun Inn (next to The Fleece) before his restoration as the next king. Stay away from the dirty beggar children, my dears...